It seems that lately, new hair loss treatments based on “revolutionary scientific research” hit the rumor mill on a monthly basis. Some of these treatments come to light via reputable scientific journals while others, like Recoverup, materialize one day with a flashy website, a lot of promises and very little verifiable data. Recoverup is a UK based company that claims to offer stem cell treatments for hair loss through clinics in Taipei, Taiwan and Penang, Malaysia. According to their website, this treatment is so quick and easy it can be performed in a single day with startling results visible in only one month. Does this sound too good to be true?
Recoverup’s baldness treatment process claims to rely upon Autologous Adipose Adult Stem Cells (AAA). Unlike controversial embryonic stem cell treatments, Autologous Adipose Stem Cells are derived from the patient’s own fat cells through a small liposuction procedure and are then grown into a culture to increase volume. These stem cells are then “differentiated” with “growth factors” and injected into the scalp in order to induce new hair growth. This multistage process from extraction to injection can be performed in two appointments scheduled in the same day.
The question is, does Recoverup’s baldness treatment really grow hair? They state that “Empirical data indicates patients would expect to see at least 40% of all treated areas showing one of four results; (1) darker hair (2) thicker hair (3) faster growing hair or (4) more hair per follicle. Overall the effect is of more volume, and density, in those areas which were treated.” However, the Recoverup website offers very little in the way of photo documentation. The few photos that are presented are of poor quality and covered in text making them very difficult to evaluate.
The estimated cost for the one day hair loss treatment is between $8,000 and $13,000 depending upon the area to be treated. However, if the area to be treated is sufficiently large enough to merit a second day of treatments then this fee increases. Recoverup states that the long-term effects of the treatment are unknown and are dependent upon such factors as the patient’s age and quality of the source stem cells. “However, as a general guide, in other areas of stem cell treatment, data indicates approximately 3-5 years of positive results from each treatment.” Recoverup does offer a 30-day money back guarantee if a patient experiences no new hair growth but is also quick to point out that the results will vary. One can imagine quibbling over whether or not a single follicle that didn’t appear to exist prior to treatment would constitute success under their definition. In summary, assuming Recoverup’s AAA stem cell treatment does stimulate hair regrowth, a patient can expect to pay upwards of $13,000 plus travel expenses to Asia for a treatment that is, by their own estimates, about 40% effective and may last between 3 and 5 years. This hardly sounds like an attractive alternative or even supplement to today’s state of the art, ultra-refined follicular unit hair transplantation combined with the clinically proven medical treatments Propecia (finasteride) and Rogaine (minoxidil). It is recommended that patients approach all unproven, “revolutionary” medical treatments with cautious optimism. Androgenic alopecia is progressive and avoiding proven surgical and medical treatments in favor of experimental procedures may lead to further hair loss.